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Proposition 51 codified as Civil Code section 1431.2

Proposition 51 was adopted June 3, 1986, and is codified as Civil Code section 1431.2. It revised the old rule of joint and several liability as to general damages and imposed a new rule of partial responsibility depending on percentages of fault. 

The intent of the statute was to allocate general or non-economic damages between defendants as can be seen from the adoption of Civil Code section 1431.1 which contains the finding and declaration of the People of the State of California: 

The People of the State of California find and declare as follows: 
(a) The legal doctrine of joint and several liability, also known as "the deep pocket rule," has resulted in a system of inequity and injustice that has threatened financial bankruptcy of local governments, other public agencies, private individuals and businesses and has resulted in higher prices for goods and services to the public and in higher taxes to the taxpayers. 
(b) Some governmental and private defendants are perceived to have substantial financial resources or insurance coverage and have thus been included in lawsuits even though there was little or no basis for finding them at fault. Under joint and several liability, if they are found to share even a fraction of the fault, they often are held financially liable for all the damage. The People--taxpayers and consumers alike--ultimately pay for these lawsuits in the form of higher taxes, higher prices and higher insurance premiums. 

(c)Local governments have been forced to curtail some essential police, fire and other protections because of the soaring costs of lawsuits and insurance premiums. Therefore, the People of the State of California declare that to remedy these inequities, defendants in tort actions shall be held financially liable in closer proportion to their degree of fault. To treat them differently is unfair and inequitable. 

The People of the State of California further declare that reforms in the liability laws in tort actions are necessary and proper to avoid catastrophic economic consequences for state and local governmental bodies as well as private individuals and businesses.

Go to Consumer Law for more information about Proposition 51.

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